Oxford researchers awarded prestigious prize

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Two Oxford University researchers, Dr Anna-Lora Wainwright and Dr Hannah Sullivan, have been awarded the Philip Leverhulme award for exceptional work. They were awarded £70,000 as recognition of their contributions to their fields of study.  

Dr Wainwright is of the School of Geography and the Environment and the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies. She is a fellow of St. Cross College in Oxford and is a University Lecture in the Human Geography of China. She has recently published a book about the effects of cancer on those living in rural China, Fighting for Breath: Living Morally and Dying of Cancer in a Chinese Village.

Dr Sullivan is one of three tutors in modern literature from 1780 to the present at New College and a lecturer of the English faculty. She research specialises in modernism, poetry and poetic form, and various questions in stylistics and textual criticism. Her research areas also include the revision of British and American modernism and literary style and form. Her first book, The Work of Revision, was published this summer.

The Philip Leverhulme awards are awarded to younger academics in a range of disciplines. The Leverhulme Trust says of them that, “These Prizes, with a value of £70,000 each, are awarded to outstanding scholars who have made a substantial and recognised contribution to their particular field of study, recognised at an international level, and where the expectation is that their greatest achievement is yet to come.”

Dr Sullivan said “I feel extremely lucky to be awarded this prize to work on an ambitious and experimental project that otherwise, I fear, would never have taken off. My new book is about free verse and English poetry’s break-up with the iambic pentameter. I’m interested in the evolution and ideological meaning of ‘freedom’ in form. Most English poems until the 20th century are in shared, repeated prosodic or rhyming forms, whereas most English poems today are in a form unique to that poem. I’ll be asking why.”

The prize of £70,000 is given over two or three years and can be used for a variety of projects. Dr Sullivan said “I am going to use some part of the prize to work on a non-semantic version of what my former colleague Franco Moretti calls ‘distant reading’. In other words, I’ll be working with a programmer and a large corpus to see if I can find out, for example, what the most common stanza form was in poems published in 1880, or what percentage of poems in 1910 used iambic pentameters.”

The Leverhulme Trust was established in 1925 by the will of William Hesketh Lever, the founder of Lever Brothers. The aim was to provide grants and scholarships for academics at every stage in their careers and to aid any research and education. The Trust currently distributes over £60 million a year. They award around 30 Philip Leverhulme awards every year. Professor Gordon Marshall Director of The Leverhulme Trust said of this year’s candidates “The standard of the nominated candidates was encouragingly high, and the prize-winners were judged by the panel to be truly outstanding in their fields, with records of proven achievement, as well as telling promise for the future.”

A Balliol 3rd year, Ragulan Vigneswaran, commented “I think it’s great that hard working Oxford scholars are being rewarded for doing research that is far out of the mainstream. The subjects which these winners are working in really show the diversity which Oxford has to offer. Hopefully other aspiring students will be inspired by this and continue Oxford’s great tradition of research that makes it one of the premier universities in the world.”

 

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